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Economic instruments for the rational use of pesticides

It should be noted that the document entitled “Economic Instruments for the Rational Use of Pesticides” is not a government policy direction. Instead, it proposes options that are feasible in the Québec context, as stipulated in one of the initiatives in the Québec Pesticide Strategy 2015-2018.

August 2019

After 25 years of responsible pesticide management action, Québec has made progress. However, steps still need to be taken in order to more effectively reduce health and environmental risks associated with the use of these products in Québec. It is for this reason that the Québec Pesticide Strategy 2015-2018 includes provisions to impose stricter conditions on pesticide use and implement actions to make users aware of their responsibilities. To achieve this, the government is considering various ways to control the use of pesticides, including the introduction of economic instruments. As a result, publishing a document on economic instruments is among the actions set forth in the Strategy and it is that action that this text addresses.

The Sustainable Development Commissioner concurs. In the Report of the Auditor General of Québec tabled in the National Assembly in spring 2016, he recommends that the Ministère provide stronger oversight of pesticide use, particularly through economic measures.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an economic instrument is a measure that uses the price system and market forces to achieve a specific goal. Using instruments of this type with an eye to environmental protection and sustainable development consists of increasing the costs of activities that have a negative impact on the environment. The flexibility of these instruments leaves the choice up to users, while at the same time encouraging them through economic incentives to use alternatives that are less harmful to the environment.

The goal of the Ministère is to use economic instruments to make pesticide users aware of their responsibilities by taking into account the polluter pays principle, i.e., by making users of the most hazardous pesticides assume a greater share of environmental and health-related costs. In addition, the Ministère aims to encourage pesticide users to reduce the amounts of pesticides they use. It also aims to improve the availability of lower-risk pesticides at the time of purchase and to foster choosing alternatives to using pesticides. The use of low-risk pesticides and biopesticides could become more attractive if there were financial advantages involved. The introduction of an economic instrument is a complementary approach to regulatory measures and voluntary actions. It would optimize and promote the government’s current tools for reducing the risks associated with pesticide use.

The purpose of this document is to analyze the possibility of introducing an economic instrument for pesticides and propose possible options adapted to the situation in Québec. Consequently, two economic instrument scenarios are presented. Each has its advantages and disadvantages:

  1. Revision of the permit and certificate fees for the sale and use of pesticides based on the risk of the authorized activities;
  2. Introduction of a levy on pesticides based on their health and environmental risks.

The European experience shows that economic instruments can be applicable to pesticides and that they have some effect. However, they must be bolstered by support measures as well as regulatory measures in order to reduce pesticide use. Such a multifaceted approach is in fact planned as part of the Québec Pesticide Strategy 2015-2018 and the Québec Agricultural Phytosanitary Strategy 2011-2021. The anticipated legal and regulatory amendments as well as the terms and conditions of the economic instruments chosen will be the subject of consultations.

Back - Québec Pesticide Strategy 2015-2018


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